MURRIETA – It was a win-win situation for Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, when she visited to two Murrieta Valley Unified School District elementary schools on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, to award this year’s selections for the county’s top school counselor and site support employee of the year.
At Tovashal Elementary School, staff members were already tearing up with joy as they accompanied White to a classroom to help honor Jodi Spoon-Sadlon, the 2018 Riverside County School Counselor of the Year.
“Of all the counselors in Riverside County, you have been selected to represent us, even at the state level,” White told Spoon-Sadlon. “People started crying when we were walking down the hall because they said you deserve it. We appreciate you because you care so much about each and every student.”
Murrieta Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Pat Kelley, told students that Spoon-Sadlon was selected to represent counselors from more than 500 schools in the county. “You do so much, you are a spark for others,” Kelley said. “When I walk into a room with you, I always feel that we need to put on our ‘A-game’, and do our very best.”
Spoon-Sadlon said she met other counselors who were being considered for the county award a few weeks ago and was impressed by their commitment to education. Now, she felt honored to represent them.
“I am touched and in awe to be selected as 2018 Riverside County Counselor of the Year,” said Spoon-Sadlon “It is a privilege and an honor to represent the profession of counseling and the importance of social-emotional learning in our schools. I have the best job I can think of because I work for students’ success.”
A few minutes later, White was on her way to E. Hale Curran Elementary School where she waited in a classroom to surprise Susan Hall, who was selected as the 2018 Riverside County Site Support Employee of the Year.
“Your colleagues love you—especially the support you give to teachers, and that you have been doing so for so many years,” White told Hall, remarking on Hall’s 35 years in education. “They say you support from the heart.”
Kelley shared with students and staff that he and Hall were hired by the Murrieta district at the same time in 1991. “I knew I had met someone who was special and important, because she had a mission in her heart to help students and fellow teachers,” Kelley said. “That is an amazing gift that you have permeated throughout this entire district.”
Hall said she has always felt that her job was to support teachers in the district so that they could provide the best education possible for students. “I have made education my life, my mission, and my calling,” she said. “My role has always been in support…I really like the idea of support, so this is a great award.”
The surprise of Spoon-Sadlon took place at Tovashal Elementary School, one of two schools where she serves as an elementary school counselor (the other is Lisa J. Mails Elementary School). Beyond her exceptional one-on-one communication skills with students, colleagues praised Spoon-Sadlon for her school-wide impact that includes classroom presentations on social-emotional learning, anti-bullying, and empathy.
A resident of Temecula, Spoon-Sadlon has served as an elementary school counselor for seven years in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, and as an educator for 18 years. The data-based evidence of her impact has, in part, led to the district expanding from two elementary counselors to the equivalent of seven-and-a-half counselors today. She has led the implementation of programs like The Great Kindness Challenge, a Gardening Group, Student Attendance Review Team, and the Student Valet Program that positively impact individual students and overall school climate. Her focus on improving school attendance has led to a reduction in chronically absent students from 8.9% to 4.7% in the last two academic years.
“It was an educator who encouraged me to be myself and to not shy away from challenges. It was an educator who sat with me when I was discouraged or sad or lost. It is because of that educator, my life changed because I had hope,” Spoon-Sadlon said in her application. “I am fortunate because my job is to connect and support students in being their best self, whether it is going to college, making better choices, or merely believing in their ability.”
Hall’s 35 years in education, and 11 with the district, have included roles as an induction coordinator, academic coach, and teaching mentor. In her current position, she has helped develop a teacher induction program for special education teachers—described as “therapy” for special education teachers.” She creates literacy and math intervention trainings and provides support for new teachers. In addition, she has coordinated ten trips to Lusaka, Zambia as part of Project TEACh (Together Educating Africa’s Children) where she leads a group of volunteer educators to help train teachers at an orphanage school.
“When a new teacher doubts their career choice, I am there to encourage them. When a veteran teacher grows weary and wants reinvigoration, I support them in developing new skills and seeking new roles. If a teacher lacks expertise in a given area, I provide the help they need or put them in touch with someone who can,” Hall said in her application. “It is a satisfactory moment for me when I hear a teacher in training speak out of a ‘growth’ mindset and say: ‘I haven’t learned this…yet!’”
Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White, will conduct a total of seven surprise visits during late February and early March to honor the top educators who serve 430,000 students in the county. The full list of categories and honorees for the 2018 Riverside County Educators of the Year is as follows:
The Riverside County Educators of the Year are selected from the more than 36,000 educational employees in the county. The rigorous application process starts with nominations by teachers, classified employees, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where an outside selection committee selects the honorees before the county superintendent announces the honorees.
Along with the 2018 Riverside County Teachers of the Year, the Educators of the Year will be honored at the Riverside County Celebrating Educators Luncheon at the Riverside Convention Center on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.
Clarification: The 2018 Teachers of the Year were named in mid-2017 to align with the 2018 California State Teacher of the Year competition. The 2019 Riverside County Teachers of the Year will be announced in May/June of 2018.
- School Counselor – Jodi Spoon-Sadlon, Elementary School Counselor, Murrieta Valley Unified School District (named on February 21, 2018)
- Site Support Employee – Susan Hall, Teacher on Special Assignment, Murrieta Valley Unified School District (named on February 21, 2018)
- Confidential Employee – TBD
- Principal – TBD
- Certificated Administrator – TBD
- Classified Employee – TBD
- Classified Administrator of the Year – Karl Melzer, Instructional Publication Center Manager, Hemet USD (named on February 15, 2018)